A Day of Ups and Downs

On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Education and Health killed an attempt to deregulate abortion centers in the state. The bill would have nullified the hard-fought for health and safety standards initiated by a 2011 law this bill sought to undo. Thankfully, the committee voted it down 8-7, on a party-line vote.

The patron of the bill and those who spoke in favor primarily pointed to last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt to essentially claim that holding abortion centers to high standards of health and safety is “unconstitutional.”

Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax) asked the patron why the Senate should take any action when the watered-down health and safety regulations passed last October by the state Board of Health have been sitting on the Governor’s desk for 41 days with no action (i.e. his signature). In other words, if watering down the health and safety regulations on abortion centers is apparently not a priority even for this Governor, what does that say about the urgency (or the constitutionality) of eliminating the regulations? 

For that matter, what was the urgency for the Board of Health to spend thousands of dollars to schedule a “special meeting” just to ram through those amendments? Now 87 days later, we are all still waiting.  No one could provide an answer.

The Family Foundation spoke to the Committee to address the constitutional question, pointing to Attorney General Mark Herring’s own guidance letter which stated that is was merely “possible” that the regulations could be “subject to a constitutional challenge” and that the Board of Health has “discretion” to determine whether they think something is unconstitutional or not.

Religious Liberty
Also on Thursaday, a House General Laws subcommittee passed The Family Foundation’s top religious liberty priority, a bill that would protect religious charities and schools from being discriminated against by state government because of their beliefs, speech and actions regarding marriage.  This proposal, which passed last year but was vetoed by the Governor, would be a roadblock to his recent anti-faith, anti-freedom Executive Order 61 that allows the state to punish those who differ with his personal views on marriage by denying those entities contracts.  The proposal, patroned by Delegate Nick Freitas (R-30, Culpeper) should be heard by the full committee early next week.

The subcommittee also defeated legislation that would have elevated sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) to a protected class.  This proposal has been used to weaponize government against businesses that choose to not participate in same-sex weddings, such as bakers and photographers.

Student Privacy
Unfortunately, the same subcommittee defeated legislation that would have protected the privacy, safety and dignity of our school children in public school locker rooms, showers and restrooms. Subcommittee members said they wanted to defer action until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision in the case out of Gloucester county later this Spring.  Of course, because the narrative that such legislation is “bad for business” and “unwelcoming” has been set by the same media people claim to not believe the bill’s fate was sealed long before today.  Too few are willing to stand up to the narrative with the truth.

Quite frankly, if the legislature had passed similar legislation last year before the controversy in North Carolina erupted, providing a convenient narrative to kill this year’s bill, lawmakers might have avoided some of the hyper-hysteria the media and progressive left generated on this year’s bill.  But this fight is far from over, as the dignity and safety of our children can’t be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.